Columns » Words

Words

by and

comment

Just back from shopping for the man in her life, a reader asks, “Why is a shaving kit called a Dopp kit?” Wikipedia answers:

“A Dopp kit is a small bag, made of leather, vinyl or cloth that is used for storing men’s grooming tools for travel. Common items kept in a Dopp kit are a razor, shaving cream, comb, nail clippers, scissors, toothbrush, toothpaste and cologne. The name derives from early 20th century leather craftsman Charles Doppelt.”

Or is it poke a dot?

“The Perfect Christmas Gift — Warm & Cozy Pink Polk a Dot Pajamas.”A polka dot is “a dot or round spot (printed, woven or embroidered) repeated to form a pattern on a textile fabric.” The origin of the term is unclear. An Americanism dating from the 1880s, it precedes even Lawrence Welk, who played a lot of polkas, heaven knows. President James K. Polk was not the type to wear colorful dots (or pajamas with or without dots) and anyway he died 30 years before polka dot came into common use.

“In August, he helped raise $400,000 for Hutchinson at the home of former journeyman NBA center Joe Kleine.” As it’s used here, a journeyman is “any experienced, competent but routine worker or performer.” These days, it’s most often seen on the sports page: “The journeyman outfielder was traded to the Blue Sox for a new washing machine.” To organized labor, a journeyman is “a person who has served an apprenticeship at a trade or handicraft and is certified to work at it assisting or under another person.” I seem to remember a singing group called The Journeymen.

“We don’t want to leave city government to the ward heelers.” Ward heeler is a derogatory name for a minor local politician political errand boy who keeps in touch with people and matters in a ward or and reports to his political boss. John Ciardi says the heeler part is “based on heel as a command to a dog to follow close behind.”

Add a comment

Clicky